Spirit Quest -Piemanship

Spirit Quest

Economics must be science of fulfilling the necessaries of life

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective
As a clergyman I am expected to be a connoisseur of pies. Undoubtedly my spouse takes the cake, well pie, when it comes to baking. Unfortunately she doesn’t bake anymore inasmuch as the products of her skill are anathema to her diet. I do recall that that her crust  melted in my mouth. Thus whenever I walk past a bakery I salivate profusely as memory evokes her piemanship.

This enthusiasm does not carry over to pie charts, those illustrations of how money and other resources are divided. Go to any gas pump and you will see posted how the inflated price of the litre is divided between the government and other entities, e.g. the producer.

Economics is the science of running the household of that  local, national or global treasury. Books on the so-called dismal science are littered with pie charts. Whether you know anything about the art of running financial affairs or nothing, and I come close to the latter end of that scale, there is one unassailable fact besides how many pies  can be balanced on the end of a budget: there is but ONE pie — one commonwealth of nations, one pool of resources, one trough.

I have been intrigued by the biblical miracle story of the feeding of the five thousand, or is it two thousand, well, anyway a great multitude. Economists must get immediately suspicious by such discrepancies in numbers and discredit the whole story.

They had gathered in the amphitheater of a Galilean hillside. All day the Great One held forth to the spellbound crowd. But as the day waned his handlers sidled up to him, “Wrap it up, boss!” they advised him, “the natives are hungry and restless. Send them home.”

But the Teacher perplexed his managers when he demanded, “Why don’t you give them something to eat?” Can you not envision the rolling of the eyes and shrugging of shoulders as they looked at each other in dismay. Did he not know that they had only seven loaves and two fish. Nevertheless they set about the task of dividing the crowd into workable, or feedable, sections. And then a miracle happened, the crowd was fed, indeed great was the abundance of leftovers. Figurez vous!

Interpreters have made all manner of suggestions beyond the miraculous, how all this might have happened. I have heard it suggested that most people in those days did not go about empty-handed, that under their flowing cloaks they concealed sandwiches. However I believe that the point of the story is, whether factual or not, that a miracle happened. And, it happened in the hands of the distributors

It is a fact  applicable to the world situation. Feeding the five thousand, the five million or the 8 billion is a matter of distribution. There is but one pie, and as my family soon noticed, if there are  some who have too much others will go wanting. Why do economists find this so hard to understand?

Unfortunately the order of the worldly ways is that those with the largest fork, the keenest knife, the sharpest elbows and the biggest appetite, those who manage to get to the table first, who have no doubts about their entitement, receive the lion’s share of the pie. Its been ever thus.

Of course we have been encouraged to be charitable, to share, to enlarge the crumbs that fall from our table. A gross injustice persists not only in the feeding of the masses but also applies to other such essentials as housing, health care and education.

Simplistic, is it? Economics is a complicated science with many mutations and permutations to be taken into consideration worthy of many MBAs. But 99% can’t be all wrong or lazy, that the 1% have taken 99% of the gross global product. It will take a miracle  to supply the open mouths, but the miracle will be one of distribution.

Are “the least of these” left to fight in the legislatures, in the alleys and battlefields, to be included at the table to share that one and only pie?  It is obvious that I haven’t studied economics, that I have but a layman’s understanding of global wealth management. Baffled as I may be when confronted by the complexity of the world’s household, I am nevertheless left with the one persistent observation, the one that my young family soon perceived, that there is only one pie.  

Likewise his managers and the crowds realized that there were only seven loaves and two measly fish that had been exposed to the warmth of the day all day, and that there were many mouths to feed. Did they think of swarming the larder’s keepers “To each all they can own”, was not a slogan that the Teacher had extolled on the Galilean hillside. His command was “You give them something to eat, and don’t be stingy!”

I believe that there is a spirit that demands a basic justice. Economics must be the science of fulfilling that demand.

30 March 2012

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